Thursday, February 28, 2019

Maryland - Day 27 - Goddard Space Center

Cherry Hill Park
Wednesday, 27 February 2019
fuzzy route map
On the way to NASA's Goddard Space Center, I passed a bowling alley called Bowlero, which I thought showed some creativity.

Part of the space center is in the town of Greenbelt which, oddly enough, was begun as a planned community as part of the New Deal.  It was built in 1936-37 and intended to be a co-op, with residents cooperatively farming nearby land and cooperatively running local businesses.  It was used as a prototype for Greendale, Wisconsin, (near Milwaukee) and Greenhills, Ohio (near Cincinnati).  I didn't really see any of the town, though, because I got to the space center first.
NASA's Goddard Space Center Visitor Center
Visitors are funneled to the Visitor Center, outside the security gates, so we don't get a tour of the many varied facilities they have there, though I think it's possible to arrange a tour with a group.  I think that's what the 2 buses of middle-school-age kids I saw were doing.  But the Visitor Center is packed with plenty of information.
where NASA's work is done

NASA's Goddard Space Center is named for Dr. Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945), considered the father of modern rocketry and credited with creating and launching the world's first liquid fueled rocket.

Most exhibits are in one main room, but off to the side they have what they call a Solarium, and it's not like the one people put in their homes.  It's a very small room and very black and on one enormous wall they project photos of the sun - videos, actually, that show one video of the sun's surface for 18 seconds (I think) and then show a different video of the sun.  You can't stand any farther away than about 8' so it's pretty much in your face.

I think my camera takes videos but have no idea how to do it, so all you get are still shots.  But these were videos and showed the sprays that are coming off the sun's surface to be going right back in again.

The school kids were waiting for the buses to leave on the tour and a batch of them came in to the Solarium with me (and didn't bother to read the signs so I had to tell them what they were looking at to shut them up).  Then there was a discussion among them about gravity because they were wondering why the sprays were going back to the sun's surface, and one kid said "gravity" and another kid said "there's no gravity in space" and another kid said "the sun's gravity makes the planets rotate around it" and so forth.  It was pretty interesting to me.

But the video show was stunning.  I couldn't stop watching.

They had an exhibit of lunar soil, that was actually simulated soil created at Goddard: the composition of the Moon's soil can interfere with thermal measurements of the Moon's surface we take from orbit, and it also caused problems for the Apollo astronauts by sticking to their space suits and getting into their living environment, so NASA developed this simulation to figure out how to deal with it.

They also have a Moon rock, and this was the real deal, not a simulation.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

This jerry-rigged-looking thing is actually an exact replica of the LRO that's currently orbiting the Moon.  It was designed and built at Goddard and is covered in a shiny thermal blanket made of Germanium Black Kapton® to protect it from space's temperature extremes.

They had a lot of information about the Hubble Telescope, with which they can see the equivalent of a dime from 86 miles away.  A fact I find stunning.  It orbits the Earth every 95 minutes.

James Webb Space Telescope
The next gen coming soon is the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Telescope.  It will achieve this using 18 hexagonal mirrors that will fit together to work as a single 21.3' mirror, the largest ever flown in space.  It will rotate around the Sun, rather than the Earth, and will use a large sunshield to protect it from light and heat from the Sun and Earth and the Moon - it must be kept cold to see infrared light from the universe.
explains the mirrors

They intend to use the infrared light to look 13.5 billion light years in the past to see the first stars and galaxies formed.  I don't understand how they hope to do this and nothing here explained it.  My only guess is that they think either that those first stars are still there and still emitting light, or that the stars may be dead but the telescope will still be able to detect evidence of them.

They did say that starlight is only now reaching Earth after traveling 100 million years through deep space, so some stars we see now were created when dinosaurs were still here.  (And dinosaurs were at Goddard, too, because they found a footprint on the grounds.)
gravitational radiation, explained

The scientific name for light is electromagnetic radiation.  NASA scientists are aiming to detect gravitational radiation soon, though I didn't quite understand this either.  But it sounds fascinating.

What I did understand is that the Webb telescope, including its platform, is so big it has to fold up like origami to fit inside the rocket that will carry it to space.  And after it's launched it'll open up like a Transformer.  Wonder who thought that one up.
servicing the Hubble

There have been 5 Hubble servicing missions between 1993 and 2009.  This photo shows they bring the Hubble on board the shuttle to do the servicing.

There were 5 space shuttles and they flew a total of 135 missions between 1981 and 2011.  They were the world's first reusable spacecraft.

International Space Station
This model of the space station shows it as it was configured in March 2011 with various things docked on it.  That changes over time as different support vehicles come and go.  The ISS is bigger than a football field and weighs 827,794 pounds (and I don't know where they found a scale to weigh it on).  It was created over time by carrying pieces up one or two at a time and assembling them in space. 

They had exhibits of equipment that had actually been to space and used to build or service various components, and showed photos of astronauts hanging out in space doing this work.  It was instantly clear to me that a successful astronaut candidate couldn't have a fear of heights.

I don't know what we'll be able to see when the Webb Telescope is functional, but the Visitor Center had some photos taken by the Hubble Telescope and I have a few of them here.

On the left is a photo of the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  The core of the galaxy is in the bright white area just off-center.

The photo on the right is a supernova bubble: a sphere of gas that's the result of gas being shocked by the expanding blast wave from a stellar explosion, i.e. a supernova (that would shock me too).  This bubble is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, and the blast that created it occurred 400 years ago.  Astronomers speculate the blast might have been visible in the Southern Hemisphere around 1600 AD.

 The photo on the left is Spiral Galaxy NGC2841 (leading me to believe these guys need to come up with better names, like Fred or Ethel).  The center of that galaxy is the bright spot of starlight, and spiralling outward are dust lanes, silhouetted against a population of whitish middle-aged stars.  Younger stars are the blue dots along the spiral's arms.

They had a LOT more here, such as a whole section about the Earth's interconnected atmosphere and information about the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs.

They had bits of bizarre information like: one of our nearest exoplanets (orbits a star other than our Sun) is HD189733b (see what I mean about these names?) that is 63 light years away and has an atmosphere of 1,000° Celsius where it rains glass sideways in winds of 7,000 km/hour.   Not hospitable.

This photo of Goddard's clean room reminded me of a scene in The Martian, so I plan to go back to the campground and watch it tonight.  This seems like a space-y kind of day, after all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Maryland - Day 26 - DC suburbs

Cherry Hill Park
Tuesday, 26 February 2019

really pretty sunrise this morning
today's route, as usual
today's route, in closeup

I've heard forever about places like Bethesda and Chevy Chase and Silver Spring, and I've been to them, too, for various reasons in the distant past.  But today I wanted to get an idea of where they are and what they look like, and it turned out to be not what I expected.

Almost as soon as I'd turned west off Route 1, I passed the National Archives.  I was a little confused because I've been to the National Archive building in downtown Washington, DC, and seen the Constitution and so forth.  But as far as I can tell, this is additional material - and it sounds like they have a lot of it.  This is where you'd go to check out the JFK assassination records, for instance.  I'll bet this is a fascinating place to visit.

I passed a sign that said "Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones."  That's actually all the sign said and I couldn't figure out why it was there, so I looked it up.  She lived here for years and died on a farm near where the sign was, but I still don't know why the sign was there.  I'm adding a link to her biography because it sounds like she was a fascinating person - and a real tough cookie.  In her day, she was known as one of the most dangerous women in America.  (I can't help but wonder who were the most dangerous men.)

From the map online I thought Thayer Ave. in Silver Spring (I think, these towns all seem to run together) was an arterial street - but it wasn't, the map lied.  Again.  It was a fairly narrow residential street, made more so by construction vehicles and workers.  The houses and apartments looked like they were mostly built in the first 3 decades of the 20th century.  Lots of trees.  In fact, the whole area looked like that.  I'd figured I'd see some really spiffy places, and I'm sure they're there, but what I mostly saw didn't look any fancier than the old area of Austin.

I saw a pale gray squirrel chase a black squirrel across the street and noticed them especially because of the contrast in colors.  I stopped to make a note of seeing a black squirrel, and then I saw the squirrel had stopped on the trunk of a bush and was staring back at me.  And then I saw a 2nd black squirrel running around nearby.  I don't remember seeing black squirrels since - was it the Finger Lakes area in NY?  (internet photo, not mine)

I ended up on a narrow side street in downtown Silver Spring and found the same ethnic diversity that seems to prevail in nearby Washington, DC.  I passed a Jamaican restaurant and an Ethiopian restaurant, almost next door to each other.  The Guatemalan consulate was just a few blocks away.  Every time I've visited DC I've thought it must be an amazing area to eat your way through.

I passed the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, which hosts the annual National Science Bowl.

I learned that Connecticut Avenue, one of the main arteries in the area, suffers from uncoordinated traffic signals.  (My father was a traffic engineer, so I tend to think in those terms.)

Walter Reed complex
I passed Walter Reed Hospital, aka Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  It's enormous, as you can see from this aerial photo that I obviously didn't take.  I was driving along the road in the bottom of this photo and the traffic was fierce so I couldn't even change lanes, let alone pull over.

I went there once about 1970 to visit my Uncle Tom's wife Marguerite's sister Elvira.  I have zero memory of why she was there but I do remember the hospital corridors were painted that insitutional green and there were very high ceilings and it looked like it had been built about the turn of the century (the 20th century), if that recently.  I do hope it's not still like that, that being 50 years ago and all.  One thing that's changed: I'm certain there wasn't a gate with a guard stationed at it back then.  It's a different world.

Across the street is the National Library of Medicine, which I hadn't heard of so I looked it up.  It's the world's largest biomedical library.  It's next door to the National Institutes of Health.  This is clearly the block to get sick in.

Driving back to the campground I passed the Washington Mormon Temple, and I'm glad I'd been forewarned by the map.  That building is stunning.  I was on a multi-lane interstate so could barely gawk, but I did as much of that as I could.

The photo on the left is about the view I had from the highway, though the tree brances were bare.

The photo on the right looks like it's from their parking lot and I'm including it because that little figure up at the top of the main spire shows up a little better.  I spent a lot of gawking time trying to see what it is, to no avail.  I'm including a link to this web page because I think this is likely what I saw, and it's explained.

The drivers in this area are some of the rudest I've come across.  Oddly, they have license plates from any number of places but all drive the same - rudely.  Given the number of cars on the road here, it made it tough for someone like me.  I guess I just need to be pushier about changing lanes.

Maryland - Days 20 - 25

Cherry Hill Park
Wednesday, 20 - Monday, 25 February 2019

Crazy to spend so much of a short month sitting in the campground, but that's basically what's happened.  Though I do have a couple of good excuses.

Wednesday, it started snowing by 7 AM, I measured 4" on the picnic table at noon, and it kept snowing for more than an hour longer.  The weather folks claimed the snow would be immediately followed by lots of rain, but they lied.  We got zero rain.  So instead of the snow melting fairly quickly, it was still there when I woke up Thursday morning.

Both dogs, but especially Dexter, love the snow.  Dext acts like he does at the beach and wants to run in it.  I'm so glad to see him happy I try to run behind him, though it's not so easy in rubber boots with about 25 pounds overweight on me.  But they love it, so I'm glad for them that it stuck around all day and overnight.

On Friday, I ventured out to pay my phone bill and get a few groceries, but I wasn't sure enough of the roads because there was ice here and there, so went straight on back.

We got a new next-door neighbor on Friday, and after they'd been here a little bit, Dexter started growling in their direction.  At first I figured they were outside doing something on our side of their RV, or that they were walking their dog or something.  But when the growling kept up, I looked and couldn't see any of that.  It wasn't until I followed the direction of his eyes that I noticed the satellite dish on their roof was moving around to pick up a signal.  And that's what Dext was growling at.  (The first thing I said was, "You're kidding.")  Then I saw the man come out and take a look, so I got out and told him about Dexter growling at the dish and the man said, "You're kidding."  Dexter's clearly very observant.

These people don't have a dog but do have a bird - I forget which kind the man said.  When they left Saturday morning I found a pile of sunflower seeds on my picnic table.  I left them there for the birds in the park.  But 2 days later, the pile looked untouched.  Then on Monday I noticed that there was nary a seed left and figured the squirrels had come while we were out.  The people behind us are long-term folks and have a bird feeder they fill every day.  They were getting a big flock of sparrow-size birds with a few squirrels gathering on the ground to pick up the leavings every day.  But recently a flock of crows has moved in and, I guess, muscled out the smaller birds.  It's a big batch of crows - maybe 3+ dozen.

The rain did show up on Sunday and came down heavy for hours in the morning.  The afternoon was wonderful with so much warm sun that I put on a t-shirt and flip-flops for a while.  But about 5:00 heavy wind gusts started up and kept blowing all night.  Heavy as in the wind was blowing the RV around quite a bit.

I'd intended to go see a bit more of the state Monday, but by the early morning weather broadcast, the National Weather Service had issued some serious wind warnings, bridges were being closed to trucks, and warnings were out for vehicles with high profiles (meaning RVs, I figured).  But all the weather's supposed to calm down and be nice for most of the rest of the week, so I should be able to get out a little more.

Meanwhile, I spent a day putting together my tax return.  I don't have a printer so handwrote the 1040 on notebook paper.  I did that once before and the IRS didn't say anything about it, so I'm hoping it'll work again.

I spent some more hours making reservations for our first few days in Virginia, because I need a mailing address there.  I've managed to move far enough south so that vets' offices have at least heard of Trifexis (heartworm and flea medicine), which is what I was giving the dogs until I ran out.  I got a year's supply from my vet before I left Austin, but with that gone now I need more.  I don't like ordering things by mail but kept running into so many roadblocks that I finally went for it - though I called and did it over the phone, rather than online, which I don't trust. 

The Banfield in Delaware did a heartworm test on the dogs, so I don't have to get that done again, but state laws in Virginia say one vet can't use the heartworm test done by another vet - even one Banfield using the test another one did - so if I didn't order by mail, I'd have to go back to Delaware (and I've already discussed the bridge problem I have).  But this way, the online company would fax a release to Delaware, who told me they'd sign it and send it back, and the online company would then send the pills to KOA in Virginia.  Which was the main reason I wanted to make reservations now.   Hope this all works - the Delaware Banfield sounded really disorganized on the phone.

No deer at this campground - way too open a space and sandwiched between an interstate and a very busy road - but it seems to be packed with rabbits.  We don't usually see them in the daytime, though Dexter looks for them every time we go out, but they're busy at night.  Our early morning walks are a series of struggles because the rabbits get both dogs excited.  There was one time, though, we walked right by 2 rabbits - and I know Dexter saw them, he looked straight at them twice - but both rabbits froze and I guess Dext decided they were not real, like the stone turtles that are all over the campground.  And Gracie didn't notice them at all.  I thought that was interesting.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Maryland - Day 19 - College Park Aviation Museum

Cherry Hill Park
Tuesday, 19 February 2019

During yesterday's grocery stop, I bought eggs that come from an Eastern Shore farm: Happy Hens' Barnyard (motto: Nesting on a wing and a layer!)

The "college" in College Park, where my campground is, is the University of Maryland.  I don't know why that information surprised me, but it did.  The school is about 2 miles from here.
today's route
Today is my sister Louise's birthday and, in her memory, I decided to visit College Park Airport, the world's oldest continually operating airfield, and its nearby Aviation Museum.

Wright Brothers
December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers had 4 successful flights at Kitty Hawk, NC, the longest of which lasted 57 seconds.  Few in the press even believed the report, and those few so misrepresented the facts that there was little general interest.

Initially the Wrights used a catapult to launch the planes because it took too long for the plane engine to build up enough speed for takeoff.  In 1910, they installed wheels on the planes, making the catapult no longer needed.  (The step-by-step process of invention and development is fascinating.  No wheels for the first 5 years!)

In 1905, the Wrights started trying to interest the US government, which finally paid attention in 1907.  In 1908, while Wilbur Wright was creating a sensation in France with many successful flights, Orville Wright was performing US government trials at Ft. Myer in Virginia.  The last of those trials failed, leaving Orville badly injured and his copilot dead.

In 1909, the military agreed to move the contract work to College Park, which had a larger landing area, fewer civilians living nearby, and a convenient rail line.  The airport here has operated ever since.

US Mail Service
In 1754, when Benjamin Franklin was Postmaster General for the British Crown, it took mail 6 weeks to go from Boston to Philadelphia.  In 1835, the B&O Railroad opened a branch line to Washington, DC, and the trains began to move mail faster than before; mail clerks sorted the mail on the trains.

In 1857, the US government offered a prize of $600,000 for an idea to get mail from Missouri to California in 10 days - and the Pony Express was born.  In 1918, the first Postal Air Mail Service was begun with a regular route between Wash. DC (i.e. College Park), Philadelphia and New York City.

Planes in WWI
The French were much more enthusiastic than the Americans about this newfangled flying business, and by the beginning of WWI in 1914 had developed machines capable of helping the war effort.  Seeing this, the US woke up and got busy catching up.  We joined the war in 1917 and it was over in 1918.  But though the war ended, the debts still needed to be paid (those were different times).  The government issued Liberty Loans in 1917-18 to pay for the war effort and more than half of all American families participated.

In a 1918 publicity stunt to support the Liberty Loans, Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.) stamped himself as air mail (at 16¢ an ounce, it cost him $414.72) and mailed himself from College Park to NYC.  The flight took 4 hours, dropping leaflets along the way to support the Loans.

Flight Innovations
the gray one is the helicopter

Henry Berliner invented the forerunner of today's helicopter and, in 1924, flew this one at 40 mph for 200 yards at a 15' altitude.  Fifteen years later, Igor Sikorsky figured out how to make the idea practical.

Note that this helicopter has two rotors, one above each wing.  This plane is owned by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum but is displayed here in College Park.

this is the plane that went to the North Pole
At left is an explanation of a flight in 2000 that took the blue plane on the right to the North Pole and back again to College Park.  In an open cockpit.  (You know these crazy flyboys.)

Following WWII, returning soldiers used the GI bill to pay for flying lessons.  (That use never entered my mind.)

The sign on the left describes the development of many major airlines in the framework of progress in air mail.

The sign on the right explains the invention and development of what we now use as a flight simulator.  It was created in 1929 but, as with so many good ideas, it took years for it to catch on. 

Until I saw these signs, I never realized that this plane I'd heard of in old novels was real, and that it had a name: Ercoupe.  These signs explain that it was sold at Macy's and other department stores; that it was so easy to fly young children (and even women!) could do it; that an oddity of its design allowed people with missing limbs to fly - a boon for disabled soldiers returning from war.  It's apparently no longer in production but there are still many of them flying around the world.

Flight Basics
For others like me who've never quite gotten the idea clear, the museum had a nice interactive display for children (my level of understanding) of the following principles:

  • Lift: it gets planes from the ground into the air; the air must deflect around the wing top and bottom, then the air above the wing sweeps down faster than the air below the wing and lifts it up
  • Gravity: it pulls the planes down to the ground; to fly, a plane must have more lift than its amount of gravity force
  • Thrust: it moves the plane forward; a propeller pushes the air from the front of the plane to the rear, moving the plane forward; propellers are shaped like twisted wings and use the same pressure difference to generate thrust that wings use to generate lift

The photo on the left shows propellers of different ages made of different materials.

The photo on the right is a close-up of the propeller that's second from the left in the left-hand photo.  I took it because that propeller was made of canvas and paper some time in the 1920s.  (I find that information stunning.)

The Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron was formed in 1942, and in 1943 became the Women's Airforce Service Pilots.  They were always considered civilians despite their role in assisting and training male combat pilots during WWII.  They were given permission by Walt Disney to adopt his character Fifinella as their symbol.  The museum has a pin that was owned by one of the WASPs that looks just like this emblem here.  The WASPs were disbanded in 1944.

In 1976, the US Air Force announced it was training its first female pilots.  The WASPs, knowing they themselves were the first, started working both for recognition and for veterans benefits.  They were granted status as veterans in 1977 but later were denied burial in Arlington National Cemetery.  The US Army administers that cemetery and decided the 1977 law didn't make WASPs eligible for Arlington burial (the Army apparently decided they weren't really veterans).  It took Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), a former USAF combat pilot herself, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to introduce and get passed a bill correcting the Army's interpretation.  Pres. Obama signed the bill in 2016 - almost 30 years after veteran's status was originally granted.  (Those good ol' Army boys can really be stubborn.)

There was much more at the museum, but I'd already spent 2 hours there and decided to go back to the critters.

My sister Louise
Death can be so unfair.  Louise will never be older than 21, and of course that's still the way I think of her.  But this would have been her 67th birthday, the realization of which brought me to a sudden stop.  67 isn't 21.  I so wish she'd had the chance to live those years.  She was a remarkable person and I'm certain she would have lived a remarkable life.

She had cerebral palsy as a baby and spent her early years wearing leg braces.  One of her feet twisted in until she taught it not to when she was in junior high school.

She could read a book and knit a sweater at the same time.  And her knitting was beautiful.

She loved horses and horse racing and introduced our whole family to the Triple Crown races.  Weezy saw Secretariat win the Kentucky Derby, but died before he finished out the other two Triple Crown races.  I'm so sorry because she would have loved it.

She was always the most studious of the 3 of us kids, the hardest working and - no surprise - made the best grades by far.  She was a National Merit Scholarship Winner.  But she was no goody-two-shoes: she almost got kicked out of school a few weeks before graduation for working on a - gasp! - subversive newspaper.  Its main crime in the eyes of the school officials was to point out the separate but very unequal facilities between the black and white high schools in Bryan, TX.  (This was 1970.)  For that sin, most of the kids who worked on the paper got suspended or expelled.

What Louise explained to me, though, is that they actually had done something they shouldn't have, which was to distribute the paper on school grounds.  For some reason, school officials never seemed to notice that infraction so, of course, the kids kept quiet about it.

She sent me a long detailed letter that I still have describing not only the incident but the follow-up conference in the principal's office with him and her and our parents.  The climax seemed to be when the principal told Weezy he'd let her back into school but she had to agree not to support the newspaper.  And Daddy said, "Are you telling her what she's allowed to think?"  And the principal said, "She cannot support this newspaper!"  And Daddy said, "Are you telling her what she can and cannot THINK?"  And the principal said, "Well, of course he couldn't tell her what to think."  Daddy wanted him to admit that.

When Weez asked him later about it, Daddy just said, "Life gets more interesting every day."

And Weezy told me the one thing she'd learned is this: If you're going to do something unpopular, be sure you are unquestionably legal every step of the way.  Because it was that improper distribution on school grounds that made it harder for her to defend herself.

She went to Duke University and learned French and lived in the French dorm for a while.  She was among those who helped start the women's studies program there and was very involved in their activities.  She discovered skydiving and got an extra job to earn the money to pay for it.  Sadly, that's also what killed her - her parachute didn't open one day.

When we were young, I saw her have a grand mal seizure the first time she tried on a pair of contact lenses.  I never knew what brought it on, but there's no question that's what I was seeing.  Momma told me later she'd had another seizure when she was younger, though I don't know the circumstances.

Both her parachutes were packed properly and there was no reason for them not to open, so the conclusion is that she didn't pull the cord.  I absolutely believe it's because she had another seizure.  This was only 3 weeks after our parents got divorced.  She'd recently split up from her boyfriend.  She was beginning her senior year of college and didn't know what she wanted to do after graduation.  She was stressed.  But she was tough.  As tough as they come.  And I'm certain this wasn't suicide but a medical event.

But despite her death, she had a strong influence on my life.  One of the reasons I became a lawyer was to carry on something she'd been thinking of doing herself.  She would have loved the Dick Francis books (horseracing and mysteries and good writing all combined? a no-brainer).  It's impossible for me to work a jigsaw puzzle without remembering how she'd hold one or more pieces in her hand, waiting until she could find the place they fit but not telling anyone else she had them until we complained that there were pieces missing. 

Big things and small ones, she'll always be a part of my life.  And all these years later, I still miss her very much.

Maryland - Day 18 - Annapolis

Cherry Hill Park
Monday, 18 February 2019

(I've just managed to delete this post and have spent 20 minutes trying unsuccessfully to recover even a glimpse of it.  So this re-creation won't be as detailed as the original.  Sorry.)
today's route
This morning we drove over to Historic Annapolis, which is the same as today's Annapolis, only today it's surrounded by lots more houses and shopping centers.  But the main part of town is old: it was founded by the Puritans in 1649 and today still has more 18th century buildings than any other US city.
State House

Maryland's State House ior a legislative body.  (Some states have repurposed their original capitols as museums or something).  It was built in 1772 and has the oldest and largest wooden dome not containing nails in the US.  It's the only state house that has also served as the US capitol (Nov. 1783 - Aug 1784).
State House dome

The dome is topped by an acorn that supports a lightning rod designed by Benjamin Franklin.  The original acorn rotted (though it lasted 200+ years) and was replaced in 1996, but I think the lightning rod is still the original. 

All these photos are off the internet as there was no place whatever I could even pause.  The driving directions I got online were clearly designed for compact cars, "clearly" because they told me I could drive down the downtown streets which are still of brick and very narrow and winding.  I can say with confidence that they weren't laid out with modern vehicles in mind - I think even some SUVs would have trouble navigating those streets.  (They may have started as cow paths, as far as I could tell.) 

In my RV I was inching through streets with cars parked on either side of roads so narrow that all those cars had their side mirrors pulled in.  If they hadn't, I'd have certainly scraped one or more of them.

Fortunately, the cars behind me - including a police car at one point - were very patient, because I kept encountering one-way streets that were going the wrong way and I couldn't get out of the maze and kept inching along for what seemed like forever.  I grabbed the first street I came to that was one-way the right way, and then had to figure out where I was because it wasn't where I'd intended to be.

The US Naval Academy is only a few blocks from the worst of the maze and I'd originally wanted to at least drive by the entrance.  By the time I got myself reoriented, I found I was just a block away and could see it through the side streets, but there was no way at all I wanted to risk trying to get closer in case I got sucked into another maze.

In a more appropriate vehicle, I'd have enjoyed parking and walking around town for a bit because it seemed to be a pleasant place with a nice old feel to it.  Next time.

I went next to Macy's in a shopping center, looking for a new mattress in the Presidents Day sales.  I've always liked Macy's, have bought furniture through them in the past, and didn't know which of the multiple mattress stores now proliferating I could trust.  I told the nice Macy's salesperson that I unfashionably wanted a mattress I could turn over, because I'm certain I can get better wear and a longer period of good sleep by turning the mattress.  Apparently, nobody wants to bother any more except me, because he said they don't carry them.  But he directed me to a small mattress store across the street, and it turned out to be a great tip.  (I can always count on Macy's.)

The Mattress Store is a small family-owned business who explained that the reason I can't find a mattress that can be turned over is that they aren't being made any more.  (I should say I'm looking for a decent mattress - not just some little foam thing like I currently have on my bed.)  But The Mattress Store has gotten Serta to agree to custom-make what I'm looking for and will order one for me if I want.

But then I ran into a logistical problem: I intended to go back to the Eastern Shore on Friday for the rest of the month, but a special order would take at least till Friday to fill.  I explained to the very nice ladies in the store that I'd been terrified by the Bay Bridge so planned to drive back using Maryland's northern route, which meant I expected to be gone from the Annapolis area by early- to mid-morning.  Well, they have a 2nd store just on the other side of the Bay Bridge and suggested an option of having myself driven across and picking up the mattress on the other side.  And they pointed out that the northern route crosses the Susquehanna River and has bridges too.

Back out to the RV for lunch and online research.  There are in fact 3 bridges in MD across the Susquehanna: 2 are toll bridges and one of those is only 2 lanes wide, both are a long way above the water to accommodate seagoing vessels, both are over a mile long, and both are subject to high winds (2 semis were turned over a couple of years ago by winds); the 3rd crosses a dam and is so narrow truckers aren't allowed on it. 

Three lousy options, given my current frame of mind.  I called the Bay Bridge driving service and they agreed to do it for $40 with 24-hour notice because of needing to get a driver who could drive oversized vehicles, but I'd have to drive part way onto the bridge first to meet the driver.

By this time my head was starting to pop open and I went back to the store and said I definitely wanted the mattress but would have to spend more time thinking about my travel plans before I could be definite about delivery.  Very nice people.  Very accommodating.

I went from there to a nearby PetsMart for supplies and then drove back west on state route 450, aka Defense Highway, aiming for a grocery store.  Only it turned out part way along the road I saw a sign saying road closed ahead, local traffic only.  I've seen those signs before and I've found they nearly always mean it, especially when it comes to larger vehicles like mine.  So I turned around and went back to the main highway and cut north back to Rt. 450 when I thought I might be past the blockage.

After the grocery store I made a slight adjustment northward and ended driving past the Goddard/NASA Space Center.  If I have time, I'd like to go to their visitor center before I leave.

And then back to the campground where I started an internal battle over my various options for the rest of the month.

Travel Decisions
My plan had been to spend the last week of February back at Pocomoke River State Park on the Eastern Shore and drive down to Virginia in March from there.  Having learned my lesson, I looked up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that runs from the southern tip of Delmarva to mainland Virginia.  Pete and I drove that bridge/tunnel 45 years ago and my memory of it appears to be pretty accurate.  But what's changed is the vehicle I'm driving and my bizarre experience of partial hypnosis on the Bay Bridge.
part of the bridge part

a view of the tunnel part
Because that experience is clearly still etched in my brain, I figure I could have some real trouble with the Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  The bridge part seems to be a 4-lane divided road and flat - no problem even though it runs for 23 miles.  But the road narrows for the tunnels to 2 lanes so no room for error or hypnosis or debilitating fear.

It's really a remarkable bridge, with the tunnel sections allowing for ocean-going vessels to connect the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  I'd love to drive it again, but my fear level is now too easily triggered.  Maybe later in March I might drive to Delmarva from Virginia Beach - when the weather might be better.  But not right now.

The campground I'm in is really nice but a lot more expensive than I'd prefer, so I considered going back down to Point Lookout State Park for at least the last few days of the month.  Now that I've ruled out the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, I have no choice but to cross the Potomac River to get from MD to VA, so I checked the bridge closest to Point Lookout.  It turns out that this bridge is described online as 1.7 miles, 2 lanes, narrow and steep.
Rt. 301 bridge

This isn't a clear photo and the one that illustrates the bridge best is copyrighted so I can't use it, but maybe you can see the abrupt and very steep climb of this bridge.

Arlington bridge
I used to be able to deal with things like this, but right now - I took a look at that photo and said not a chance.

The next bridge along the Potomac is the one that runs right through Washington, DC, to Arlington and I know that one well - everybody does because it shows up all the time on the news and in TV shows.

See?  Nice and flat.  And it's got a bunch of lanes, too, because it's a major traffic artery.  That's my kind of bridge.

All of which led me to the only sensible conclusion: I should just shell out the money to stay here for the extra week.  This campground is only about 20-25 miles or so from the bridge, making it easy to go to Virginia next week.

And since we're being told to expect a major snowstorm Wednesday and maybe Thursday this week, staying here next week would give me more time to see things in this area.

It took quite a while to come to this result and I decided I'd better sleep on it a few days before calling The Mattress Store back about a delivery location.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Maryland - Day 17

Cherry Hill Park
Sunday, 17 February 2019

I confess: I've gotten sloppy and the result is that I've lost a day.  This day.

Each day I travel I write down the route I want to take and what I want to see at each point.  I also keep a pad of paper in the console in the cab and write down sights and impressions and thoughts as I drive, because I forget them almost immediately through being interested in the next thing along.  Even when I spend a day in one spot I often take notes so I'll know what I've done.  I've found with these aids I can recreate the day in my own mind well enough to keep this blog as detailed as I want.

Until today.  Which seems to be lost in my mind.

I've been puzzling over why I've had such a dramatic reaction to the driving challenges lately - mostly bridges, but also wanting to avoid the mountains in western MD and having trouble with the fast-paced city traffic and one-way streets yesterday in Baltimore.  And I think I've figured it out: it's because of the vehicle I'm driving.

My first car was a Volvo 1800E - Volvo's sports car in the '70s.  Next was a VW Superbeetle - I had that one for 17 years.  Then for a few months I had a Honda Accord that I hated and dumped for a Miata.  (Do you see a trend here?)  I had the Miata for 11 years and sold it only because I'd acquired a 2nd largish dog and couldn't fit 2 in the 2-seater Miata.  I traded it in for a SAAB 9³ - the biggest car I owned.  Then I had a Mini for a few years, and finally drove my mom's Honda Civic for 5 or 6 years.  Then I got this RV.  That car-owning history was absolutely no preparation for RV ownership.

The RV is easy enough to drive - that's not the problem.  But it's much wider than my other vehicles so I'm always having to worry about where both sides are, and where my side windows are.  I have to worry about the height, not just for overpasses but also for tree branches - not something I ever thought of in a car.  I always prized visibility in my cars but now don't have much, even with a back-up camera, which anyway I can't always see and even when I can it doesn't show what's at the sides of the rear and neither do the rear-view mirrors.  Of course it's much longer than any car I owned.  And I worry about the bulk which catches the wind in ways cars don't do.  It's true my light little cars could and did get shoved around sometimes, but it's like the difference for a sailboat when the sail's down or it's up in terms of how much shoving the wind can do to the RV.

When I was married, I drove Pete's pick-up truck all the time, including on snow and ice because that was in Alaska.  It's not that I've never had experience with adverse driving conditions.  But for some reason, the conditions here in Maryland are defeating me.

I don't like heights, but I've driven across that yucky bridge in Corpus Christi over the Intracoastal Waterway many times.  I hated those mountains in western PA, but I still drove on them - coming and going.  I've driven the narrow streets in old old Philadelphia and down narrow country lanes I had no business being in; I had trouble getting out unscathed but I did.

And now I've been completely unnerved by that Bay Bridge.  I really don't think I'd have had such a dramatically viceral reaction to the bridge across the Patuxent River on Friday if I hadn't been so wiped out by the Bay Bridge.  Knowing there are so many other people who feel the same way that someone has an actual flourishing business driving people's cars across the bridge for them doesn't make me feel any better.

I've still chosen to spend 4+ years on the road, and in the US the roads include mountains and bridges of various kinds.  I have to figure out a way to keep that bridge from limiting the next 3 years of my travels.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Maryland - Day 16 - Baltimore

Cherry Hill Park
Saturday, 16 February 2019

David and Anna sent me a care package from Texas to this campground that included my mail and 2 Valentines and - best of all - a loaf of Pecan Bread from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana!  Most wonderful stuff in the world.  For those who don't know, that bakery is known worldwide for its fruitcakes and has received mail addressed to "Fruit Cake, Texas."  Now, Texas has its share of fruit cakes (of various types), but this little bakery is IT.  And its Pecan Bread is my favorite.  Hard to beat my luck in having such a thoughtful family.
today's route
I was still a little tired from yesterday's drive, but tomorrow's forecast includes possible snow so I figured I'd better take advantage of today's non-snow to go see things.  Baltimore has quite a few places I'd like to visit so the challenge was to come up with an itinerary that was possible but not punitive.

My main goal was the Baltimore Museum of Industry, and I'd charted a route that would at least take me past several other places, even if I was too tired to check them out.  But it turns out that Baltimore is only a half hour or so away from the campground so I got to the Museum an hour before it opened.  I decided to run by the other places while I waited.

National Visionary Art Museum
I'd never heard of this place but the outside is so lighthearted, it made me wish I had the time and energy to visit.  That Christmas tree on the right is still there - it's not just a seasonal thing.  This building is in an area that's part industrial and part condo/apartment, with glimpses through the buildings of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  And then, suddenly, this amazing building.  This is an internet photo.

USS Constitution
Old Ironsides
It really wasn't possible for me to just stop to take a photo - even at 9:00 there was a lot of traffic.  Baltimore is full of one-way streets (traps for the unwary) and sudden commands to turn left only when I didn't want to turn left.

But I was lucky and got a red light right in a place where I could get almost this exact view of the ship (this is another internet photo).  This ship was launched in 1797 and is still able to sail under its own power.   This web page explains all about the ship and its history.  That's not a reproduction, as I'd expected given its age, but instead the original ship.  The wiki page says it's usually berthed in Boston, but the ship's museum says this is the original here in Baltimore.

I next tried to find the Babe Ruth Museum and Camden Yards and had fairly detailed directions.  Unfortunately, I turned on the wrong street and ended up on my way back to College Park on a high speed highway for miles before I could find a way to get off.  That really shook me up (I'm still feeling the effects of that stupid bridge from yesterday) so when I got back to the industry museum, I counted myself lucky and parked.  The dogs were happy, anyway, because I took them for a walk.

Baltimore Museum of Industry
explains the crane
crane from Bethlehem Steel's repair dock
In my crane photo, the museum is on the right, and the parking lot exit is through the crane's uprights.  A little intimidating.

The museum extols the extraordinary energy and creativity that has come from the city of Baltimore over the years, and it's even more interesting than I'd expected.

Just inside the entrance is an introduction to the factors that brought about this vibrant history.

Past these signs are others that talk about the history of canning to preserve food, a history that seems to center on Baltimore.  All the following information is from the museum.

At the beginning of the 1800's food was preserved by sealing glass jars with cork and tar.  By the 1820s the jars were being replaced with tin-plated canisters ("cans") that were made by hand.  A skilled laborer could make 60 cans/day.  In the 1840s and '50s, can makers were gradually being replaced by machines that made up to 1,500/day.  By the 1880s, the industry was fully automated, despite protests and strikes from preempted can makers.

In the 1850s Baltimorean Isaac Solomon appropriated Sir Humphrey Davy's idea of adding calcium chloride (salt) to water, which raised the boiling point to 240°.  This allowed the cooking time of oysters (the prime food product of the region at the time) to go from 5-6 hours down to 30-40 minutes.  Although this innovation increased production, the process was still something of an art, requiring skilled laborers.
an original retort with cans

That situation changed in 1874 when Baltimorean Andrew Shriver invented a steam retort that allowed cooking time to be standardized.  From there, the food processing industry exploded.  Baltimore, on the edge of farming country, received truckloads of fresh vegetables that were processed, in addition to the boatloads of oysters and other seafood from the Bay.

Usually the cannery workers were immigrant women and children or black men who weren't hired for more prestigious jobs.  The museum had many photographs of the canneries and workers, showing they were the ones peeling the tomatoes, snapping the beans, shucking the oysters and packing them in cans - no machines.  The workers said the smell in the packing plants could get pretty bad.  (No kidding.)

Baltimore Firsts:
▫  The first umbrella factory in the US was founded in 1828 in Baltimore; by the 1900s Baltimore was the umbrella capital of the world
Baltimore umbrella factory

▫ Baltimore was home to the first gas company in the US (1816).

▫ The Stieff Sterling Co., founded in 1892 in Baltimore, was the oldest continually operating silver co. in the US until its closing in 1999.  In 1939 it was chosen to recreate 18th century silver for Colonial Williamsburg.

▫ The B&O Railroad (1827) was the first railroad to be built in the US and the first to carry paying passengers.  It ran from Baltimore to the Ohio River at Wheeling, WV, and was the first to connect the Atlantic Ocean and the Ohio River.  It was 380 miles of double track, and cost 25 years and $30 million to build.
Crown Cork bottle cap

▫ The modern bottle cap was invented and first made by William Painter, a Baltimore machinist, maker of the Crown Cork; he said inventing the capping machine was harder than inventing the cap.

▫ The Bendix Radio Co. had a number of firsts all by themselves.

▫ Maryland Paper Products, in its Sweetheart brand division, created individually wrapped "sanitary" paper straws and became the world's largest producer.

▫ In 1897 the first practical modern submarine was launched in Baltimore; its design was based on the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

▫ The Black & Decker Co. was founded in 1910 in Baltimore; in 1916 it produced the first portable ½" electric drill.  This drill was used extensively in WWII, helping make Rosie the Riveter famous and Black+Decker™ a post-war household name.
▫ In 1910, mercurochrome was invented in Baltimore.  It got me through my childhood but has apparently recently fallen into disrepute.  Sad.

▫ In 1939 Westinghouse (after it moved to Baltimore from Pittsburgh) developed radar which was used in WWII to warn of enemy planes; it detected the oncoming Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor, but the higher-ups thought they knew better and ignored it.  In 1953 they developed doppler radar which is the basis for all today's airborne radar.

▫ In 1950, a Baltimorean created the world's first aluminum ski. 

▫ These photos illustrate some of the other firsts for Baltimore.

I was in the museum for more than an hour and a half and passed up several exhibits because I didn't want to leave the critters much longer, and anyway it was lunchtime.  I couldn't have imagined one city would be able to produce so much inventiveness.

The sign explains that this cupola was for years on a grand piano factory here, and from 1869 to 1930s the pianos were sent all over the world for such musicians as Tchaikovsky, Puccini and Rubinstein.

From the museum parking lot where we ate lunch I had a good view of this Domino Sugars sign, though this isn't my photo.  Apparently this factory is still functioning here.

The parking lot is also used by people with sailboats docked here.  I was surprised to see the first, and then the second arrive and don protective clothing, but they kept coming.  I'll bet I saw a dozen people altogether head for the boats while I was there - and this was a very cold, windy day with no sun to speak of.  Those Baltimoreans are hardy folks.

On the way out of town I drove by Camden Yards, mostly because it wasn't very far from the museum.  I guess it's lucky it isn't baseball season because the streets here are fairly narrow.  (It's the Camden neighborhood.)
Camden Yards
On the way back to the campground I took a slight detour past Laurel Racecourse.  They had horseracing today, and I'd have liked to stop off for a bit but parking was a tricky and anyway I was tired.  Opened in 1911, it's owned by the Maryland Jockey Club, founded 1743, the oldest sporting organization in America.  These folks also own Pimlico Racecourse, opened in 1870 and host of the Preakness.

It felt like a long day but I was glad to be able to dodge winter weather and see as much of Baltimore as I did.